Ofcom Boss Declares for TV Self-Regulation

15 December 2004

Lauded by a formerly apprehensive media industry for its benevolent attitude toward advertising and programming self-regulation, Britain's new media and telecoms supra-regulator Ofcom approaches the end of its nascent first year to the sound of applause.

Speaking to British trade magazine Media Week, Ofcom ceo Stephen Carter - whose ad-friendly resumé includes stints at J Walter Thompson and cable company NTL - opined: "We're in a world of deregulation and co-regulation."

Duly grateful, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising described Ofcom's debut year as "awe inspiring" which (in a non-military context) can be presumed a compliment.

Blushing at the applause, Carter admitted his biggest initial fear was that his regulatory regime would be regarded as aloof by media owners and agencies. "It's the thing I've worried about most," he said.

"It would've been easy for us to have been slightly detached from reality. We've tried not to be aloof. We've worked really hard at that. We didn't want to be seen to be sitting somewhat removed from the industry, handing down judgements."

He also saluted the strength of the Ofcom team: "There's eight hundred-odd people here and that's 800 very good people."

But when the air-kissing is over, 2005 will see some thorny issues on which Ofcom's present popularity could founder. Not least the Scylla and Charybdis of junk food and alcohol advertising, although Carter was swift to point out that Ofcom would not be the sole arbiter on decisions over these matters:

"It's not just going to be an Ofcom decision," he said, pointing out that the Advertising Standards Authority could also be Mr Nasty.

"If people are now praising us, that's great," said Carter. "But I remember someone once saying to me: 'don't believe good publicity when it comes because then you'll believe the bad publicity when that arrives'."

Data sourced from Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff